Church report on sexuality released to mixed reviews

Thu 28 Nov 2013
By Sarah McAllister

The Church of England's looking to improve pastoral support for same sex couples with a public service some are describing as a blessing ceremony.

A new report's calling on the Church of England to repent for its treatment of gay people and move to offer same sex couples the opportunity to have their relationship marked in a public service.

The long awaited Pilling Report was published this morning, putting forward a number of recommendations for the Church on how it deals with matters of sexuality.

It was put together by four bishops, three advisers and former civil servant Sir Joseph Pilling who chaired the group.

Amongst the suggestions put forward is an option for priests - who have the backing of their PCC - to offer same-sex couples the opportunity to 'mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so'.

Some have suggested this amounts to a blessing but Sir Joseph Pilling's been keen to point out that's not the case.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed the report. In a statement, Most Revd Justin Welby and Dr John Sentamu said: "This is a substantial document proposing a process of facilitated conversations in the Church of England over a period of perhaps two years. 

"The document offers findings and recommendations to form part of that process of facilitated conversations. It is not a new policy statement from the Church of England.  "The House of Bishops will be meeting next month and the College of Bishops the following month to consider the Report and decide how such a process might best be shaped."

Rt Revd Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham will be one of those debating the report next month. 

He told Premier's News Hour he supports the idea of priests being allowed to formally back same sex relationships. 

But not everyone who put the report together has signed up to the recommendations. Within the document the Bishop of Birkenhead Rt Revd Keith Sinclair said it was with 'much regret' that he could not support the proposals. He said: "I believe Scripture and Christian tradition offer a clearer and better vision from God for the world in his gift of our sexuality as men and women and that this is sufficient for directing the Church at this critical time of major cultural change. 

"In particular, I am not persuaded that the biblical witness on same sex sexual behaviour is unclear." Revd Peter Ould is a Church of England priest and blogger on issues of sexuality.

He told Premier's News Hour of his concerns with the proposals. 

Other recommendations include suggestions that the Church needs to find ways of honouring and affirming Christians who experience same sex attraction, but choose to act against it.

It also asks that the Church reflects on current rules regarding sexual activity within same sex relationships when it comes to clergy and laity.

The report starts a two year process of looking into this issue. It's set to come under the eye of the House of Bishops when it meets next month.

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